In a move that is feared to divide votes among Turkey’s opposition, leader of the opposition Homeland Party (MP) Muharrem İnce, a former presidential candidate for the main opposition party, has announced that he will run in the May 14 presidential election.
İnce was nominated as the candidate of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the June 2018 election against current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
He received 30.6 percent of the nationwide of vote against Erdoğan, who garnered 52.5 percent and won.
İnce parted ways with the CHP in February 2021 and established his own party in May 2021.
In this year’s election İnce will run not only against Erdoğan, who is seeking re-election, but also against CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who was nominated last week as the joint candidate of an opposition alliance, known as the “Table of Six” or the “Nation Alliance.”
İnce said at a news conference at party headquarters on Sunday when he announced his presidential bid that his first goal is to ensure that Erdoğan is defeated and that he will not take any action against the interests of Turkey.
He said he believes he can get 38 percent of the vote in the first round and 68 percent in a second-round runoff.
When asked if he wants to join either the Nation Alliance or the Public Alliance, which comprises Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and several smaller parties, he said there is no need for him to belong to any alliance and that he will wage his election campaign alone.
İnce was harshly criticized when he conceded defeat against Erdoğan on election night in 2018, urging the re-elected Turkish president to embrace all the country’s citizens.
“I accept the election results,” İnce said at the time, which brought him widespread criticism for not standing behind the votes of the people who supported him amid suspicions of election fraud.
Many say İnce’s candidacy could weaken Kılıçdaroğlu’s chances of winning since his likely voters will be from among people supporting Kılıçdaroğlu, not Erdoğan.
Professor of political science Savaş Genç criticized İnce for standing as a presidential candidate in order to damage the opposition bloc.
“Turkey is heading to a historic election. The six parties acted in coordination and nominated a joint presidential candidate. Never forget those who plan to damage the opposition bloc due to their personal interests,” he tweeted.
Journalist Amberin Zaman posted a news story about İnce’s candidacy on Twitter and said, “Muharrem İnce has become the presidential candidate of the Homeland Party in order to support the Public Alliance.”
İnce is believed to be enjoying some popularity among the country’s youth. A dance video İnce played on an election bus has gone viral among the country’s younger generation, with many of them posting similar videos on social media.